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City Council to consider medical marijuana ordinance Monday

Alexander Sinn • Apr 20, 2019 at 10:00 AM

After requests from residents to take up the issue, the Grand Haven City Council will on Monday consider a resolution to allow medical marijuana facilities.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Grand Haven City Hall, as the council will weigh whether to direct staff and the city’s Planning Commission to draft an ordinance.

Marijuana has divided the council at recent meetings. Councilmen Bob Monetza and Mike Fritz have both voiced support for allowing medical and recreational businesses, while Councilman Josh Brugger is supportive of allowing medical facilities, but not recreational. Mayor Geri McCaleb and Councilman Dennis Scott are both opposed to marijuana facilities of any kind within the city limits.

Two local advocates for marijuana access, Jamie Cooper and Rebecca Neil, have attended recent City Council meetings and asked it to consider medical facilities. They say allowing medical establishments would be a first step toward bringing marijuana into the mainstream.

After recreational pot was approved by Michigan voters last year, the council decided to ban establishments in Grand Haven.

Monetza supported the city’s ban on recreational facilities, but sided with the Planning Commission, which voted not to enact a ban in the city’s Zoning Ordinance. The council overruled the commission in a 3-2 vote, with support from McCaleb, Scott and Brugger.

Monetza said the medical and recreational questions are separate. While the state establishes licensing and regulations for the new recreational industry, the medical system has been in place long enough for state officials to work out the kinks, the councilman said.

“As a matter of principle, it’s good to have that option for people in the city,” Monetza said. “Regulations have become more clear over time. The state has done a better job of figuring this stuff out.”

Monetza said the resolution, if approved Monday, would be “step one” in a lengthy process.

Brugger said he has recently worked with local stakeholders to bring more recovery options to the area for people suffering from opioid addiction. He said access to medical marijuana treatments could aid in fighting opioid addiction.

“There are members of our community, even some serving on our boards and commissions, who without medical marijuana wouldn’t be able to function unless they were taking heavy doses of opioids,” Brugger said. “It’s a quality-of-life issue, and I believe it’s time we make this change.”

McCaleb has said allowing marijuana facilities in Grand Haven could lead to a “mecca” for pot users, while most surrounding communities have banned the industry. She said the health side effects of using marijuana are not clear.

Neil, who owns a local wellness practice, shared with the Tribune last week her use of medical marijuana products to treat epilepsy. She has voiced interest to the council in opening a medical dispensary.

Cooper, who uses CBD products to treat her son’s autism, said many residents in Grand Haven are hoping for better access to the industry. She said she’s optimistic the city resolution will be approved Monday night, and is encouraging residents to voice their opinion to the council.

“If people want it, it’s time for them to show up,” she said.

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